You don’t think Sarah Palin, Beyonce, Pamela Anderson, Lance Armstrong, and Nicole Richie actually wrote their books? As one celeb said, “I don’t do my own typing.” So many bestselling books were the result of an author hiring a great ghostwriter.
Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was written with Ken Shelton. Richard Branson in Losing My Virginity acknowledges Edward Whitley. Howard Schultz’s Onward was penned by Joanne Gordon. Many of the top-selling CEO and celebrity books are penned by someone else, but the book could not exist without the author. The ghostwriter provides the words, and sometimes some supplemental research, but not the expertise, not the story nor the advice in the pages.
That’s all you, the author. So, if you hate writing, don’t have the time to do it, or you just know you aren’t the best person for the job, a talented ghostwriter could be the right solution for you.
A ghostwriter is someone who can write your book, in your words. Good ghostwriters work hard to capture your voice to create a first draft.
So, what exactly does a great ghostwriter do?
First, the ghostwriter needs to flush out the concept for the book. Which means, identifying the ideal reader, and the hook of the book. Working with the author, the ghostwriter will create the outline for the book.
Second, the ghostwriter has to get the content from the author. Usually, this involves interviewing the author extensively to capture their voice and expertise. The ghostwriter also will research the subject matter to supplement the content as needed.
At some point early on the writer will send a sample over to the author to check the tone of the writing. Then, they will put their head down and their hands to the keyboard and complete the first draft.
Finally, the writer then will take feedback on the full first draft from the author and rework the manuscript.
Once it’s a solid draft, it’s off the editors, and over to you, to review and revise.
If that sounds like exactly what you need help with, your next question probably is where can I find a great ghostwriter?
Ghostwriters are everywhere. We have several on our team at Book Launchers if you want help with a non-fiction book.
But, where do you find the right ghostwriter for you?
First, get as clear on your book project as possible. The more you know what you want, the easier it will be to identify a writer who can help you.
- Style of book,
- Size of book,
- Your goal for the book (do you want it to become a movie or TV show or a bestseller??),
- Who you’re writing to (your ideal audience) and what level of expertise they will have,
- What you have existing already from materials to work with (for example, if you have a bunch of podcast episodes you want to turn into a book),
- How much research do you need the ghostwriter to do to add to the manuscript?
These are all important things to figure out.
Now, you start looking. Here are three ideas for where to find a great ghostwriter:
Number one, you can ask your friends who have written a book.
Some may disclose they worked with one; others may say something like, “Oh, I have a friend who worked with one.”
Number two, check out writing groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Many of the groups are closed groups, but if you write the admin and let them know what you’re looking for, they just might put up a post on your behalf. When I was hiring a ghostwriter for Book Launchers, I received about 20 highly-qualified applicants from a writers group one of the people on my team is a part of. It was a fantastic source.
Number three, Google business ghostwriters.
I connected with a few ghostwriting service companies when I was trying to find a very specific, skilled ghostwriter for one of our clients.
Four, post a job where you might hire other freelancers, like Guru.com, Upwork.com, Indeed.com or Scriptd.
Post a job for a great ghostwriter could result in an overwhelming number of responses though. So, the next question you might ask is: How do you know when you’ve found a good ghostwriter?
We’ll cover that in a second, but first let’s explore what it can cost to hire a ghostwriter.
When Book Launchers first started, we only helped you write your book with writing coaches. We didn’t have ghostwriters on our team. Then one of our clients said, “I don’t want to be the one to put the words to my expertise.” I tried to argue the benefits of writing his book, but he insisted, “It’s not a good use of my time. Find me a writer.”
My first call was to a ghostwriter I knew would be perfect for him. She’s written at least one Wall Street Journal bestseller. My client loved her, but her price tag of $50,000 to $60,000 was a bit of a budget killer. So I brought in another writer who was a well-respected sports biography ghostwriter. He couldn’t disclose a lot of his clients as many people don’t want you to know that they didn’t write their book. And because I didn’t know his experience level as well, I expected him to be cheaper than the other one. He came in at $1 per finished word.
Most business books are somewhere around 50,000 to 75,000 words, so you can see how $1 a finished word could add up.
So, I expanded my search and I started interviewing all kinds of people who had ghostwriting experience. Most of the other quotes came in between $25,000 and $35,000 for a book. The cheapest ghostwriter I found, and they were a service, not a single writer, started at $18,000.
When you understand that it will take most ghostwriters up to six months to write your book, the prices make sense. Great ghostwriters dedicate a lot of their life and time to this project. They aren’t making a living if they charge much less. And it’s not easy being a great ghostwriter, it’s a skill to be able to write a book well and to do it in someone else’s voice.
It’s not just a matter of putting words to the paper; it’s a matter of making sure they would be words that you, the real author of the book, would use.
Now, you can hire much cheaper writers. And the writing might even be half decent. The issue is that it’s not your voice and that is so important. It’s not your book if it’s not your voice. And if someone writes in a different style than you would, then you have a mountain of work to do to redo it. Sure, you save money, but you add a whole lot of time, energy and effort to the entire project.
Bottom line: to get a skilled professional ghostwriter working on your book, you’re looking at a minimum of 30 cents per finished word. The average cost is going to be closer to 50 cents per word. The more experienced the writer and the more extensive the work you’re asking for them to do, the higher the price.
Now, how do you select a great ghostwriter?
With all of the other things figured out, including:
- Your goals for the book,
- What you need your writer to do,
- Where you are going to find your ghostwriter, and
- How much you expect to pay,
now it’s time to uncover the secret to screening and choosing the best ghostwriter for your project.
This isn’t as easy as you might think because most people who hire ghostwriters don’t want you to know they didn’t write their book, so this presents a pretty big challenge.
How do you evaluate a ghostwriter’s work if they’re not allowed to tell you the books they’ve written?
In many cases, the ghostwriter has signed an NDA, so they can’t tell you they wrote that book. The more experienced ghostwriters will be able to point to a few projects they’ve worked on and can give you samples of their writing, but how do you know if they’ve captured the author’s voice if you don’t get to know who the real author is?
There’s a lot of ways to approach this, but here’s how I hire ghostwriters for Book Launchers:
Number one, I put something in the job ad that acts as an initial screen.
For example, I ask a weird question, like their favorite fruit, or I request that they do not send a resume, but instead send a short writing sample. If they don’t follow that instruction, I immediately eliminate them. If they lack care and attention to detail at the start when they should be showing their best self, it’s not a good sign for me, and it’s an immediate rejection.
Number two, I make sure that they’ve worked on similar projects.
Have they written several business books before? Not just articles, but full books. Have they written any of their books? Ideally, I want to check out their writing somewhere. Assuming that the writing was decent and they had relevant experience, we’ll move onto number three.
Number three, I send them a content editing test.
I’ve been using the first five pages of a client’s manuscript. I ask them to read it, provide five suggestions to make it more engaging and easier to read without impacting the author’s voice. Do they recognize the key issues? Can they offer interesting suggestions to improve the material? Are they able to identify questions they should be asking?
Number four, I then set up a time to chat.
When we’re talking, I’m looking for personality fit, engagement, and dedication. I don’t have a specific list of questions I’m asking when I interview a potential ghostwriter except for the following:
- What do you love about writing non-fiction books? I’ve found a lot of ghostwriters who are passionate about fiction, but non-fiction pays their bills. I’m looking for a writer that loves learning new things and turning them into material that will be helpful and easy to digest for someone else.
- How do you approach a ghostwriting project? There isnt’ a right answer but they need a process. If someone doesn’t have an approach at all, I will be concerned about their true experience level.
- Finally, how do you prefer to communicate with a client?
If everything looks good, references are next.
Ask, “What was it like “to work with them?” “What was challenging about working with the writer? “What did you have to do to help them with the project?” And then, even ask them, “What did you think “the process was like?”
Now, before you hire them for the full project, you still may want to do a tester. Maybe you pay to an article written for you. That way you can see how it is to work with them and if they can capture your voice before you hire them to write your full book.
Finally, you have to talk price and expectations. You should have a good idea of this from above already. But here’s a few more points on this:
The lower the price, the faster they’re going to need to go to get to a first draft. This isn’t a bad thing, but know that they’re making money on quantity, not quality.
You have to manage them, set deadlines, layout expectations and provide feedback.
Remember, you’re getting a manuscript, not a book. You still have to hire editors, layout designers, cover creators, and more.
Writers won’t give you a satisfaction guarantee because it sets themselves up for a world of pain if they get a picky client. You can set a number of re-writes or revisions in your contract, but it will not be unlimited. It’s your job to manage the process from the start to make sure you get what you want.
If all this sounds like a giant pain in the behind, and it is, we can help! We now have writing coaches who help clients to write their book. If you prefer to have an experienced ghostwriter do the writing for you, we can do that, too! The best part is we can do it for less than it would cost if you hired one of these amazing writers on your own. If you want to chat about it, fill out this form and we’ll hop on the phone!